Occasionally I blog about me venturing outside my usual street- and travel photography. Shooting my first wedding as designated photographer was definitely something out of my comfort zone. In a series of posts I will write about my experiences with wedding photography. This first post is about my preparations and shooting the formal wedding portraits.
I guess everyone has already snapped some pictures at a wedding. And maybe even later given the images to the happy couple to use at their discretion. But it was a different story altogether when our godchild asked me to be the official wedding photographer, shooting everything from the formal portraits in the morning to documenting the emotions of the ceremony. From taking the all-important group shots to capturing the fun of the party. A whole day with a camera in my hand. My first brush with wedding photography.
Sure enough I accepted, knowing it would be a challenge and definitely something out of my photographic comfort zone. I felt the responsibility, because, as the official photographer, there is no margin for error. You have to nail it, or you have every chance of ruining an otherwise perfect day.
I knew I would have no problems shooting the reception and the party, as this is the documentary approach I also use with my street and travel photography. But doing the formal portraits (posing the couple, creating a comfortable and fun atmosphere) and shooting the ceremony (where everything happens exactly once) gave me really something to think about and prepare for in the weeks before the wedding.
Regarding the gear, I knew that with my Olympus m4/3 bodies (OM-D E-M1X, OM-D E-M1, PEN-F) and my collection of zooms and primes I had all I would need, and also knew I was comfortable operating it. It was rather a matter of deciding what cam/lens combos to use and whether to use flash at all or rely solely on available light.
In the end, I mainly used just two lenses, the 12-100mm F/4, that, on my trusted E-M1X workhorse, gave me the needed versatility of a zoom with exceptional image quality doing the formal portraits and shooting the early parts of the reception. When light was dim (in church and at the party in the evening), I used the sublime 17mm F/1.2 prime, a perfect lens for documentary photography (17mm equals 35 mm in full frame).
I also decided against using a flash. First, it adds a lot of complexity to the shooting, second I always think of a flash being intrusive, especially during the ceremony, reception and at the party. As photographer, I feel I can do a better job when blending in, without the disturbing effects of a flash. For the formal portraits, I had Big Boy assisting me with a large reflector, at the ceremony and later on during reception and the party I used available light only, relying on my fast prime lenses.
Another big part of my preparations went into compiling a shot list. That started with meeting with the bridal couple two weeks prior to the wedding, checking their expectations regarding the formal portraits. They wanted to include their nephews and nieces in the shooting. And they were looking for more for fun type of shots in addition to the classic wedding portraits.
So I took to the world wide web and searched for examples of fun wedding shots. Including photographs with kids. From all images that I liked, I took screenshots and put them into a Powerpoint file. This I sorted into categories: formal close-ups, formal full body portraits, detail shots, photographs with the kids and solo images of bride and groom. I printed this file and took it with me to the shoot. This was a great help during the formal portrait shoot, as I was just pointing to the shots I wanted to take, and giving the bridal couple confidence I had a plan.
We started out with some of the easy shots that helped generate a relaxed atmosphere, then moved on to some more complex scenarios. It worked well, especially with the help of The Significant Other (who helped with posing and arranging the dress) and Big Boy (holding the reflector).
Also the kids shots worked well, they played along beautifully. I was able to take some beautiful and fun shots. Everybody had a good time, and I felt confident as I had things under control. Using a soap bubble machine as accessory added to the fun.
Part of the preparations was also scouting the location for the formal portraits. We decided early on shooting the formal portraits in the park of a nearby 15th century residence of a noble merchants family. The week prior to the shoot I payed a visit to the park. Going there at about the same time as our planned wedding session, I was able to check out the light and the photographic possibilities of the location.
For the case it would be raining on the wedding day, I also scouted for a indoor back-up location. With the help of The Significant Other, we did arrange for us to shoot in the greenhouse of a local nursery. Mitigating all kinds of risks is a big part of wedding photography.
All in all, my first brush with wedding photography was a smashing success. It met my own sky-high expectations. And the happy couple really loved the images that came out.
It once more proved that with proper preparation, combined with the ability to expertly operate your gear, everything is possible. A big success factor was also the fabulous work of my two „assistants“. Without the help of The Significant Other and Big Boy it wouldn‘t have been possible, as it allowed me to focus on the photography part.
Stay tuned for part two with images and my experiences from the ceremony and the reception afterwards.
Wish you a great Saturday!